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Nature and the Environment in Nineteenth-Century Ireland$
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Matthew Kelly

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620320

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620320.001.0001

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Therapeutic Environments in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Hybrid Spaces and Practices

Therapeutic Environments in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Hybrid Spaces and Practices

(p.96) 5 Therapeutic Environments in Nineteenth-Century Ireland: Hybrid Spaces and Practices
Nature and the Environment in Nineteenth-Century Ireland

Ronan Foley

Liverpool University Press

There were strong traditions in nineteenth-century Ireland that associated natural environments with health and healing. As broadly described therapeutic landscapes, there were various locations where particular healing narratives shaped the production of place. Two contrasting examples, the spa town and the sweat-house, are described to show how specifically healthy environments were narrated and understood. The spa town, especially associated with mineral waters, had identifiable scientific characteristics for disease treatments. Key 19th century examples included Lucan and Lisdoonvarna, wherein the commodification of the spas tracked how hydrotherapies were accepted and contested. At the other end of the scale, the rural sweat-house, most commonly found in parts of Leitrim, Roscommon and Sligo, was a much smaller-scale, rural and epigenetic form, built from natural materials and used primarily to cure a range of colds and arthritic conditions. These two forms had variable histories across the century that reflected global/local narratives, yet differed in crucial ways around their recognition and perceived efficacy as healing spaces. Both had strongly embodied components and used different hot/cold forms of hydropathy in very different settings, within which hybrid roles for nature and the environment were experienced and played out in different ways.

Keywords:   spas, sweat-houses, medicine, health, nature, hybridity

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